2 Approaches to Writing a CV, Inspired by Seth Godin

Your CV is a pretty critical document. It goes ahead of you. It tells a story. It influences. It persuades. It gets you found. But your CV can be the opposite of all that too. It can be a powerless.

Here’s one idea inspired by Seth Godin (marketing guru)  to make an improvement.

Seth Godin wrote a few days back about 2 approaches to marketing. One is where you say to the customer: “What do you want?” And then give it to them. The other is: “Here’s what I have for you. Choose.”

Which is best? He used the analogy of a restaurant to explain.

Say you go to a restaurant. And instead of offering you a menu, they ask, “what would you like?” As – amazing – as that sounds, actually, for me, that wouldn’t be that great. It requires too much thinking. Suddenly when faced with all that choice, the offer isn’t that compelling, I’m not sure what to do. I hesitate.

Instead restaurants offer a menu. Like this (droool!):

  • Black Forest Double Chocolate Cake – decadent, rich chocolate cake packed with brandy soaked cherries.
  • Peach Melba – Peaches sautéed in rum over vanilla ice cream topped with fresh raspberries and sauce.

Yes, droool! So the choice is limited. But, man, it catches the imagination. So much better than, “what would you like?”

So when job hunting, with your CV, in job interviews, what’s your approach? Do you …

1) Present your experience, qualifications and then say, “what do you think, can I do something for you?”

Or do you …

2) Present a small number of really exciting benefits / results you can deliver – backed up with examples:

    • how as an Administrator you implemented a process that sped up customer service by 50%;
    • how as an Engineer your idea for a new design / product led to an 37% increase in sales so that the division exceeded budget by 23% in the 1st year and by 63% the 2nd year;
    • how because of your organizational abilities as a PA, your boss has never missed a flight or mislaid a single document;
    • how because of your relationship building skill, as a Sales Rep you’ve often won new accounts away from the competition (even though your prices are higher).

Is your CV a ‘menu’ of benefits to the employer? Quicker service; increased sales; total reliability; business growth? Or is it a list of personal details, duties and responsibilities – hoping that the employer will – somehow?? – get turned on by it enough to pick up the phone to call you.

[It’s this kind of ‘entrepreneurial’ thinking I teach within my member’s only INNER CIRCLE called Career & Success. It’s cheap to join. Go here: www.careerandsuccess.info]

Bright Ideas for CV Content if You’re Starting Out In Your Career

What would you do?

Situation: you’re a volunteer paramedic/trainee, still quite junior, only with basic training, for the last year or so. How can you land a permanent job? (ACTUALLY this is a common scenario with many junior job seekers, so this is for you too.)

What can you do to improve your CV?

Some ideas:

  • Collect and add testimonials from your supervisor, your colleagues, even patients – collect positive comments such as: “Ranti is a positive, skilled, hard working professional.” “Ranti can handle pressure well.” “If there’s a crisis, I’d want Ranti by my side, for sure.”
[If your performance isn’t up to this standard, then work on it. Get it there. Be that great person that everyone likes to work with.]

  • Continue learning – go to the library and read 1 medical book every month. Make notes on it – what did you learn from it, what can you apply in your job. The book could be about first aid, survival, actual medical practice, or even biographies of anyone connected with the medical or emergency field. Put this list of books in your CV. It’ll show how committed you are.
  • Take any opportunity to learn something new – either via a course, or when you work with someone more qualified than you. Learn something, then include it in your CV.
  • Keep a log of incidents you’ve worked on, like a diary. At the end of every day, write a brief description of what you experienced that day, include locations, times, dates. Explain the situation and then explain what your role was in assisting. Put this log in your CV – well, perhaps only include the biggest events (maybe a collection of 10). This again will show thoroughness and passion on your part.
If you’re serious about building a career – in any field – apply this approach. And when you include this stuff in  your CV, you’ll be taken much more seriously, you’ll perform better in interviews, you’ll learn more, you’ll make yourself more valuable to an employer, you’ll seldom struggle to land a job.

1 Idea to Make Your CV More Exciting

Do you think of a CV as exciting? Interesting? Absorbing?

Here’s an idea to help you make your CV more exciting – to employers, even recruiters. And if it’s more exciting, it’ll get more attention. And with more attention likely come more job interviews, more and better job offers.

 Are You Trapped on This Road to Nowhere?

So, do you think of a CV as exciting? Probably not. And especially if you’re in accounts, admin, finance, law or engineering. Even IT. Yawn! And yawn again!

And yet … in a hectic, busy, cluttered, crowded job market, we expect to send out a 5 page CV full of technical detail about our “duties” and “responsibilities” and expect it to be read?

Yes, recruiters get faced with CVs containing sometimes identical bulleted lists (if they’re lucky) of duties. No-one seems to be putting their hand up and saying: “Hey, I’m your guy!” Instead they give 5 pages of bland, repetitious detail and effectively say to the recruiter or hiring company:

 “I could be the one, I could be special, but I’m not going to tell you why or how – in fact I’m not even sure why or how myself – so here’s 5 pages, maybe you can figure it out.”

It’s a road to nowhere.

 1 Idea Can Turn You Around

Now, just because you’re in Finance (or law or engineering, etc) doesn’t mean you have to be boring. Money isn’t boring. You get hired not because you can “do” auditing, accounting, engineering, legal stuff or admin etc. – BUT – because you do it well, you provide a benefit, you improve things, you’re a doer, a results getter.

You’re a cog in a money making machine: you get clean audits, you save money, you eliminate risks, you eliminate backlogs, you provide quality financial data to the CEO, you build bridges on-time and on-budget, you prevent law suits, you make sure invoices go out on time, you make sure money is collected.

This is exciting stuff to a business owner who needs it. So …

  •  If you streamlined the dept from 12 people to 6 and increased productivity – people need to know
  • If you recovered R2m from SARS last year – people need to know
  • If you set up BI systems that have improved data availability from 4 weeks to ‘real time’ – people need to know.
  • If you improved on-time invoice send outs from 74% to 96% – people need to know
  • If you improved collections, reducing 120 day accounts by 73%, say so, people need to know

Not coming out and saying that in a crisp way, not putting these facts in the spotlight in your CV helps no-one.

Metrics … figures … tangible results … these are the things that make a CV exciting to an employer. And to a recruiter they mean that they have the ammunition to sell you with. Spotlight them. Feature them. Highlight them.

Food for Thought:

 “Success comes from focus. Winners focus. Losers spray.” Steve Chandler

My 7 year old son, Ethan dropped his Lego pirate ship this morning. He was upset. Inconsolably. But he managed to focus, and before long had rebuilt it. And even better one. With 8 cannons! Focus is cool.

Join me on Facebook: www.fb.com/gerardlerouxonline.

One Page CV or Resume – Why is it a Good Idea, How to Write it (an Exercise)

A “one page CV, what? Are you nuts??!!”

Have you ever been confounded by this employer request?

“Please send a 1 page CV.”

You may think that one-page CV is just not long enough to do you justice. How can you possibly describe where you’ve been and what you’ve done in one page? So, when you’re asked for a one page CV what do you do? Is it worth the hassle and the time it’ll take to put it together?

Good Reasons for a One Page CV

Yes it is, and for good reasons.

  1. One, that’s what the employer or the recruiter as asked for. give it to them.
  2. But secondly, writing a 1 page CV is a good exercise for you.
  3. And thirdly, it’s short, sharp and very persuasive as a sales tool.

It’s good because it will force you to think about who you are and what you do. And it’ll force you to put it in the simplest and most concise terms. It’ll force you to make it easy to understand. It’ll force you to define it in your own mind – it’ll make clear. It’ll also force you to put all your best achievements front and centre.

And all of that is good for you. In a crowded job market, where few have a sharp, simple, hard hitting message of benefit to an employer, you will stand out! You’ll be fresh. You won’t be weighed down by detail.

In my experience as a CV writer and recruiter, very few people ever do this. Yes they can go on for 10 pages about what they do and where, but can they be concise and clear, definite about what they do and the benefit they bring to a company? Not very often.

And it’s the reason recruiters and employers HR people ask for one or one or two page CV. It doesn’t take them 10 pages to figure out whether you should be called in for an interview or not. It takes just one or two. They want relevant information short, sharp and concise.

How Does a One Page CV Help You?

But there’s another benefit alluded to in point 3 above. And it is this: a one-page CV creates a great first impression. In what way?

A 1 page CV exudes confidence, youth, energy, focus.

There is an energy about it. The opposite is the 45 or 60 year old person with a 20 page CV and he’s uncertain, and he’s lost confidence, and perhaps he feels he’s no longer relevant in the job market. But that’s not necessarily true. It’s maybe that he’s just presenting himself badly. He’d bogged down by the details of his curriculum vitae (“life course”). He’s forgotten that the reason he gets hired are really pretty simple and quick to outline.

My 1 Page CV Challenge to You, NOW

So, I challenge you: take all that you’ve learnt, take all your skills, take all your qualifications, and all your experience and distill it down to one page.

Show clearly and concisely what benefits you have brought to your previous employers; highlight your biggest achievement; even include a quote or two from a performance appraisal or a testimonial. Make this one page CV your marketing showcase.

Here are some other one page CV writing tips:

  • Focus on your most recent experience.
  • Focus on your most relevant qualifications
  • Focus on your most relevant and recent achievements.
  • Summarise older experience.
  • And lastly write a short three or mostly at most four line opening paragraph explaining what you do, that you do it well, how long you’ve been doing it, for and how you are qualified to do it.
Even if you never use the one-pager CV, you’ll feel more confident, more prepared marketer of “you”.
[IFyou need help – perhaps your current CV is long and you feel also, “boring” and perhaps it’s having no impact in the job market for you … THEN contact me. I’ve done 20 000 hours of CV writing and am on a constant mission to make my client’s CVs more exciting, more powerful, more ‘interview landing’.
And I’ve developed unique ways of doing this so that the CV ends up twisting the arm of an employer, practically forcing them to contact you. I’m at gerard [at] jobsearching.co.za – e-mail me and I’ll send you some free info.]

Your CV and a Can of Baked Beans

It’s an analogy I use often. What?? Yep …

Your CV is your ‘label’. Just like a can of baked beans has one. You have one.

And it does a similar job. It brands you, positions you, it – in one glance – provides the reader with an impression of what they’re gonna get.

Here’s the job it must do:

1) It must get attention

2) It must convey the impression of quality

3) It must convey the impression of organization and being ‘together’

4) It must provide some backup detail to support the ‘impression’

5) And it must do it all really fast.

Although consumers don’t buy purely on the strength of the label, it does go some way in ‘twisting their arm’.

Your CV needs to do the same as the 4 points above.

Writing an “Instant Hit” CV

Ever wanted your CV to be an instant hit with a recruiter / HR person / or an employer?

Here are 6 questions that run through their mind, this is how they think. Once we understand it, we can start looking for ways to capitalize (or just plain, give them what they want.)

So imagine, a CV appears in the inbox – “ping” – they open it – “clickity click”.

1st they scan the body of the e-mail.

They’re looking for a clue as to what it’s about. It’s subconcious. What pops up at them? Anything? Nothing?

Thus far they’re driven by a few things. Curiosity, maybe. Genuine interest, unlikely. Hope that you can solve a problem for them, maybe. Duty, perhaps. Boredom, quite possibly (any distraction is better than what they may be busy with.) Excitement, only if they’re new.

Cynical maybe (of me), but always no matter who they are there’s usually the knowledge that your application could be important for them.

So you have a few seconds of their attention. And if you make use of a short, sharp, to the point, bulleted list of reasons that’ll show – with hard relevant facts (VS soft, fluffy, or meaningless claims of being “hard working” and a “broad based specialist”) –  that you have something for them, something relevant (used again on purpose!), something credible, then perhaps they’ll move on to your attached CV with a positive feeling (always good).

Then they open the CV. And what are they thinking?

  • What does this guy do? (They want to understand where you may fit into the ‘machine’ that is their business / their clients’ business.)
  • Does he have what I value (it could be experience in a certain position, a certain qualification, a certain title, a certain achievement, or they may be looking for a certain personality – all of which solves a certain problem he’s got)?
  • What does he want to do and where? (Would this guy actually want to do what I have in mind? Or is he off on some other track?)
  • What’s special about him? (Remember “average” may actually be “special” – consistent, reliable, predictable, trustworthy.)
  • What was his most recent job and what did he achieve? (Is this person any good at what they do? What did they achieve?)
  • On a personal level is there any special? (People are curious and intrigued by people who do things – it may be you ran the Comrades, you help out at a hospice, you collect antique cars, you paid for your own university courses, etc)

These are the questions that run through their mind. And they are clues to a good CV.

Do we ever give the reader what they want? Or do we hide all these things away on page 4 and in a sub heading on page 9. Or not include them at all. Or never bring them to the fore. Or hope that the reader will join the dots and figure these things out for themselves.

If we can give them answers, if we can make it clear what’s special about us, what benefits we offer, what makes us credible, then we get attention. If we don’t, we risk being lost in the crowd.

Take a minute. Look at your CV. Imagine YOU’re the employer. Ask the questions.

What changes should you make? Make them.

[Or contact me at gerard [at] jobsearching.co.za for my personal help.

CV Writing Services

Have you considered having your CV written by someone? Be careful.

They say that it takes 10 000 hours to become an expert at something. And last week I had confirmed how true this is.

I got a call from “J”. He’d had his CV written by firm who call themselves the “career engineers”. I’m sure they’re great at something. Writing a CV is not that thing. I’m not going to run down their services (thus I haven’t given their name), variety is the spice of business.

However …

  • What “J” wanted was his successes/achievements included. They hadn’t been?!?
  • They’d also added their logo and advert to every page of his CV. (After he paid R800+)
  • The CV was 13 pages long, c’mon! we’re in the 21st century here!
  • There was no focus, no strategy, no careful thinking out of what the CV should achieve and what information was going to be best to include. It was just page after page of often irrelevant detail
  • And it started out like this: “J is a broad based specialist …” What is a “broad based specialist?” Isn’t that a contradiction in terms, for one thing? And secondly, what is it? How does it help an employer? Why should anyone care?

I’m not the best CV writer. I make some spelling mistakes. I leave out a full stop. But what’s critical for me is …

  • To get the strategy of the CV right – what’s it’s purpose, what’s the target?
  • To figure what detail will impress and influence an employer
  • To ask what will get immediate attention
  • To use fresh, strong words  to pep the reading up, add energy
  • To ask how can I format it or lay it out for maximum exposure and effect
  • And to uncover the real person behind the facts

Those are the big issues. A full stop can always be added. But these big issues take time and experience (10 000 hours!)  to resolve.

So be judicious. I can’t possibly write everyone’s CV and there are a few other good CV writers out there. But feel free to run something past me if you’re uncertain. Just contact me directly on gerard [at] jobsearching.co.za.

[By the way, I’m well into my 2nd 10 000 hours.]

Is This a Good Addition to a CV? I Think So.

Y’know how when you visit a blog, for example, often in one of the sidebars (to the left or right of the main section) there’s a block. And in that block are a bunch of words. Sometimes they’re of varying sizes. It’s called a ‘word cloud’.

What’s the idea with it? It contains not just any words. But the keywords of the site. It’s a quick overview of what the website or blog is about. And each word is also a link to content related to that word.

So for example if the blog is about rugby, the word cloud may contain words such as:

super 14 – rugby world cup 2011 – pieter van der westhuizen – percy montgomery’s hairstylist – french rugby – rugby union rules – rugby league – aussie rules – rugby fixtures 2010 – brumbies – western province – the bulls – the sharks

So the ‘word cloud’ serves 2 purposes:

  1. It gives a quick overview of what the site contains; and
  2. It gives quick links to the information you’re looking for.

How can it be applied in a CV?

A CV is about creating the right impression. It seldom gets read word for word – unless serious interest is first established. Things a reader wants to know right up front are:

  • Is this person what I need?
  • Are they qualified and do they have the experience I need?
  • How they done a great job?
  • Who have they done the job for?

So a word cloud in a CV can help – how? for point #2 above. If you choose your keywords carefully – aligning them with the job ads you’re applying for and the keywords used in them – you have the opportunity to give a quick overview of the skills, knowledge and expertise you have.

These are very keywords the employer is using in their ad. So it creates an immediate ‘connection’ ‘synergy’ ‘familiarity’ with the mind of the reader / employer / recruiter. It says:

“Hey, I’ve got the right stuff here, read on, read on”.

If you’re in marketing and sales it may read something like this:

Marketing and Sales Strategy – Marketing Tactics – Branding – Advertising and Promotion – Sales Management – Managing Teams, Targets and Performance – Building Strategic Relationships – Customer Service

You can probably do a better job of yours, but there you are.

This isn’t ‘heavy weight’ information in the CV – recruiters prefer to see where the expertise has been applied, as part of a job (there are of course smart ways of doing that, in my CV writing for clients I’ve developed some cool ways). But it can work to just give the strong suggestion that you have the ‘goods’ and encourage the reader to continue.

I think it’s a good idea.

A One Page CV? Why? And Could it Give You Any Advantage?

It’s not that often that you’re asked for a 1 page CV. But could it be a good strategy for you?

Well – your CV is there to make an impact for you. Boom! (in the words of Donkey/Eddie Murphy in Shrek). But let’s be straight – sometimes there’s just not that much to say that’s worthy of “Boom!” It happens.

So sometimes it’s an effective strategy to take what you have and make it really count. Making it more concise – 1 page – helps you to focus more attention on what you want attention focused on.

With 1 page there’s nowhere for the reader to go. And by highlighting carefully chosen words or elements (like key achievements) one has the chance to get a message accross with more “Boom!”.

But additionally: there is just something about a 1 pager CV that says: I’m confident; I don’t need lots of words to make me look good; I’m with it; I’m in the modern age.

Older job hunters especially pay attention: don’t reinforce the “old, left behind” stereotype by having a 10 page traditional CV. Rather take the risk of a one pager, highlighting your best big results. Rather cast the light on how you make a difference.

Your message can easily be diluted by lots of information. More information can always be added. But the chance to make a Boom first impression only happens once.

You will irritate recruiters with a 1 page CV. They will ask for more. But so what? If they’re calling you – impressed with the short version – that’s a big achievement and then you have the chance to dazzle them on the phone, in an interview or with additional focused material that builds further on your 1 pager.

Just some ideas. ‘Cause if you keep on doing the same old things, then you know what you can expect?!

[Of course getting it right is another matter. Maybe you need some help. Call me/e-mail me anytime for help with this. My CV writing services are there for you. My mail: gerard@jobsearching.co.za or go here for more.]

How Much Detail do You Need on Your CV?

How much detail in a CV is enough, where does one draw the line? Let’s take an example.

Today, I wrote a CV for  a General Manager in a big manufacturing company. JSE listed, Rkazillions in turnover and revenue. And he’s at the head, responsible for making things work, shareholder value and all that.

So, does he need detail such as:

“Prepared and coordinated the annual budgets on a zero base budget method”

For what he’s aiming at (GM, Managing Director, etc type positions) is that going to help him get where he’s going? I don’t think so. Maybe I’m wrong?

So where do you draw the line in terms of how much detail goes in a CV? A couple of things come to mind:

  1. Is the specific detail really that special? Or is it assumed? Take our GM – budgeting is pretty much an assumed function/skill (especially considering his Financial background). That he applied a certain methodology is perhaps even more un-important. That he did budgeting is unlikely to impress anyone. It’s not going to twist anyone’s arm into calling him in for an interview. Right?
  2. One makes decisions about what to include or not based on what the position being applied for asks for and will ask for in the way of results. Again take the GM. He’s being – no doubt – asked to increase revenue, improve efficiency in service delivery, reduce costs, etc. So really focus has to be on that stuff – how he’s performed those tasks/challenges before. And the results achieved. One doesn’t want to dilute those aspects of the message by detail that may be 2nd or 3rd tier in importance.
  3. Perhaps in the profession knowledge of certain methodologies, practices or legal frameworks IS of critical importance. They’re fundamental to whether you’re a suitable candidate or not. That’s another clue to whether detail should be included or not.

Sometimes in a CV – I see it in my CV writing Clients all the time – the response of the writer is to pack in the detail, sometimes desperately giving the impression that “this little detail may tip the scales in my favour”. But usually it won’t. Recruiters sometimes ask for “more detail” – but if they’re asking that it probably just means they’re not that interested – and instead of saying to you: “you just don’t have what we’re looking for” they ask for more detail.

At times sure they’re just drilling down to confirm you have exactly what their client is looking for. You have to be discerning. But your CV is there to present your best tier 1 detail – “10 Years as GM in a R300ml pa Company; Recent Achievements Include Turning a Division around from a R5ml loss to a R2.1ml Profit; BComm Hons Degree” etc.


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